Workshop: Case Study - D-Day celebration swells Legion ranks

Francois Le Goff

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Background: The Royal British Legion provides financial, social and emotional support to men and women who serve or have served in the Armed Forces and their relatives. Each year, the charity receives around 300,000 calls to its helpline, Legionline. It is widely known for its annual poppy appeal, which takes place in October and November, and which raised over £21m in 2002.

The major celebrations that were announced as part of the 60th anniversary, of D-Day on 6 June, and Victory in Europe and Japan Days in 2005, gave the Legion a great opportunity to increase its revenue and broaden its supporter base.

Marketing agency Target Direct, which has orchestrated the charity's campaigns for six years, carried out a feasibility study to determine the size and message of a campaign launched in remembrance of D-Day. "Our research assessed the general public's resonance with D-Day and the results indicated clearly that it is important to remember its significance, not in celebration but in thanks for the bravery and heroic sacrifices made," said Nick Thomas, creative director at the agency.

Aims: The Royal British Legion's objective was to create a large-scale, direct-marketing campaign outside its traditional poppy appeal, to raise £1m and recruit at least 35,000 new supporters.

As Target Direct's research showed, people wanted to get personally involved in the commemorations by showing their thanks to those who died on the Normandy beaches. So rather than just asking the public for a donation, the charity decided to offer them a chance to send a mini Union Jack with a personal message to Sword Beach.

How it worked: A direct-mail pack produced by Target Direct was sent to 2.4 million cold donors between May and early June. Each pack contained a letter entitled 'We owe them a colossal debt' and a 'Thank You' flag on which people could write a message of thanks and return it to the charity so that it could be sent to France on the day. The letter introduced recipients to the D-Day Dozen, 12 veterans representing the bravery of those who landed on the Normandy coast in 1944. It asked them to give £12 to the Legion and was accompanied by 12 reasons to make a donation.

A special edition of Poppy Press, British Legion's newsletter, which included campaign materials and a flag, was sent to 170,000 individuals from the charity's warm donor database that Target Direct identified as being potentially responsive to the D-Day campaign. The agency estimated that one in five people would respond to the newsletter.

In addition, 2.2 million door-drop packs were delivered. Each of them contained a remembrance sticker and encouraged recipients to ask for a flag through the charity's website or by telephone.

Target Direct, which obtained permission to plant the flags on Sword Beach from the French local authorities, sent a team to Normandy on 6 June to accompany The Royal British Legion and D-Day veterans, including the 12 heroes mentioned in the letter.

Results: The campaign exceeded its initial target, recruiting more than 50,000 new supporters. It has so far raised more than £1m, with half of that from warm donors, and responses are still coming in.

A postcard featuring one of the photos taken during the day was sent with thanks to all those that responded to the campaign, in a bid to turn one-off donations into long-term support. "The most important result is that we have reached out to such a high number of new supporters with whom we hope to build relationships," said Nick Thomas.

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